Walk's medieval heritage

AWARDED the status of a royal burgh in the 12th century, Lauder is an ancient place which offers the visitor a fascinating insight into medieval times.

It is now designated an outstanding conservation area, lying on the route of the Southern Upland Way, and overlooked by the fairytale Thirlestane Castle.

And while there is no trace of the high burgh walls that are thought to have once surrounded the town, there are still hints of its medieval heritage – notably a single main street and two back lanes, a layout at one time typical of many small Scots market towns.

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King James IV enjoyed visiting the area and frequently held court in the town and it was thanks to his patronage that its royal charter was renewed in 1502.


This is a hard walk but makes a very rewarding circuit. It uses part of the Southern Upland Way, diverting to take in a moorland section and climbing to a fine viewpoint.

From Lauder High Street, walk south to pick up the Southern Upland Way signs at the south end of the town (opposite the police station). Follow the signs close to Thirlestane Castle.

The central, east-west turreted block of the castle dates from 1590 and is built in the centre of a large English artillery fortification. Sir William Bruce, the King's master mason, transformed it for the Duke of Lauderdale during 1670-7. Several foreign craftsmen were employed to carry out the decorative plastering inside the castle, some of whom had previously worked on the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh.

The path crosses fields, enters woodland and turns right along a lane. Cross the A697 with care and walk up the access road for Wanton Walls Farm. Continue up the track into woodland, turning right at a junction. You may see pens for rearing young pheasants here.

Reach open ground and swing left, following the markers over the rise ahead, crossing a stone dyke and then descending to the Snawdon Burn. There are often cattle in this area, so please keep dogs under close control.

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Climb over the rise ahead and then drop down to cross the busy Blythe Water by a substantial footbridge. The path climbs again to follow a fence and reach the plantation on Scoured Rig, the name indicating a windy spot.

Turn left on to the track leading down to the buildings at Braidshawrig.

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Leave the Southern Upland Way here, turn left over the bridge and walk past the buildings to pick up the track heading north-west over a low rise. After about 800 metres, turn left on another track which skirts round the north side of Edgarhope Law (367m), making sharp left and right turns. Keep on this track for a further kilometre. Just before it starts to descend into the valley of Earnscleuch Water, turn left along a lesser track which runs along the top of the slope, heading just west of south.

Follow this track and path for 3km to the site of the fort on Dabshead Hill. There is a great view to the west of the valley of the Leader Water to the Eildons and further beyond to the soft outline of the Tweeddale hills. Behind you, the moorland slopes of the Lammermuirs swell gently.

From the hill top, head south, passing through a gate in the dyke and then walking along the edge of the wood. At the top of the rise you will see a gate into the wood on your right. Go through this gate and follow the ride (a gap in the trees) down to the forest track.

Turn left and follow this track for about 1.5km to the junction where you pick up Southern Upland Way (SUW) signs. Follow SUW through Wanton Walls and around the policies of Thirlestane Castle, back to Lauder and the end of the walk.

Distance: 12 miles with 380m ascent

Time: 3:30 hours

Start & Finish: High Street, Lauder

Terrain: Good paths and tracks. Boots, full hillwalking gear, map and food and drink are essential for this walk.

Grade: Strenuous

For further information log on to www.visitscotland.com/walking